A HEALTH probe has been stepped up at a factory after a third worker was confirmed to have contracted Legionnaires’ Disease.
Health experts are continuing “rigorous testing” at Faltec Europe Limited, on Boldon Business Park, in a bid to find the source of the potentially fatal bug.
Health and Safety executive officials have been on site again this week as part of their ongoing investigation into the three cases of the disease - which span seven months and have affected workers based in two separate units of the factory.
One worker was left in a coma for ten days and has still not been able to return to work after she was struck down with the condition in October, while another employee was diagnosed in April and has since been discharged from hospital.
A third worker - who fell ill last week - has now been confirmed as having contracted the disease and is recovering at home after being released from hospital.
A spokeman for Faltec Europe Ltd - which manufactures parts for the car industry and employs over 460 workers - said: “Further rigorous testing is underway.
“On Tuesday we engaged an independent water inspection company to carry out a full site survey, identify any breaches in our system and/or find evidence of active legionella bacteria.
“We continue to work closely with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Public Health England and the local authority to try and determine the source of the three confirmed cases of Legionnaire’s disease.
“The HSE were back on site yesterday to continue their investigations.
He added: “At the moment it is impossible to confirm the link and source of these incidents.
“The management team is as anxious as everyone else to get to the bottom of these three cases.
“We wish a speedy recovery to those employees off work and suffering from the disease. The welfare of our workforce is paramount. The management team is taking this matter very seriously and it is a top priority.”
Public Health England, who are leading the inquiry into the outbreak, says that the probe into the source of the outbreak only began to focus on the factory when the second case was confirmed in April.
A spokeswoman said: “‘Every case of Legionnaires’ Disease notified to the authorities is investigated in line with national guidance. This involves determining whether it is linked to any other cases, whether it is work related, hospital acquired infection or travel associated.
“If initial routine investigations fail to identify a source then further environmental investigations would be considered and might include testing the patient’s domestic water system as a potential source of infection.
“However it is not always possible to identify the source of the infection when a single case occurs. If a second case occurs, with potential links to a previous case, then all possible common sources are immediately investigated.”
‘I can’t believe I’ve been treated this way’
AN woman who battled for her life after being struck down by Legionnaire’s Disease says she is ‘absolutely disgusted’ that she was not told of further outbreaks of the disease at the fatory where she worked.
The woman, from Hebburn, was in a coma for ten days after contracting the illness last October.
Health experts were only able to narrow their search for the source of the illness to the Faltec factory where she was employed for over four years when a second worker fell ill six months later.
But the woman, who was employed at the firm through an agency, says she hasn’t received a ‘single call’ from Faltec management since she was forced into hospital.
She says she only found out that two other workers were affected when she read about the health probe in the Gazette at the weekend.
She said: “I haven’t received a single phone call from the company. I know I was an agency worker, but I was a good worker for them.
“I should have been told as I have been left to wonder if I fell ill at the factory or at home. I can’t believe I have been treated in this way.
A Faltec spokesman said: “The worker that was first diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in October 2014 was not a direct employee of Faltec Europe Ltd, but an agency worker.
“Staffing agencies normally manage the absences of their employees. We believe that the agency did try and contact the worker on the telephone numbers given, but as these were not in use, it was hard to make contact.
“As a result of limited contact information, we were never aware of the full extent of her condition. Naturally, we are shocked to hear about the ordeal that both she and her family have gone through due to Legionnaire’s disease, and we hope she continues to make a steady recovery.”